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The Heart of Wisdom Sutra

"It is said there are eighty-four thousand collections of discourses, which the Buddha taught to accord with the diverse mental dispositions and spiritual inclinations of sentient beings. The Perfection of Wisdom literature, the Prajnaparamita, is the principal genre among them. It is part of the Sanskrit Buddhist tradition and includes the Heart Sutra, also called the Heart of Wisdom Sutra...

"Emphasizing the Mahayana ideal of the bodhisattva who aspires to liberate all beings, these Perfection of Wisdom sutras flourished in many countries, including China - from where they were brought to Japan, Korea, and Vietnam - and Tibet, from where they were transmitted to Mongolia, to the vast expanse of the trans-Himalayan region, and to areas within the Russian federation. In the forms of Buddhism that developed in all of these countries, the Heart Sutra plays an important role - in fact, in many cases, a practitioner may recite it daily.

"In Tibet, the Perfection of Wisdom sutras also became an important subject for scholarly discourse in the monastic colleges. A monk would spend an average of five to seven years studying these sutras in depth. Furthermore, the monastic student would also study many commentaries on these sutras; there are at least twenty-one Indian commentaries that were translated into Tibetan and many more that originated in Tibet itself. The study of the Perfection of Wisdom sutras is emphasized in all four schools of Tibetan Buddhism - Nyingma, Sakya, Kagyu, and Geluk." —The 14th Dalai Lama, Essence of the Heart Sutra (2005) Wisdom Publications

The title of this special scripture is dervied from two important Sanskrit terms, whose natures are intimately hinted towards here.


"perfections" or literally, "that which has reached the other shore." In Buddhism, the paramitas are six or ten virtuous qualities or states of consciousness and also the path to perfect them. They are (1) charity, or alms-giving (dana); (2) discipline, or observance of precepts (sila); (3) forbearance, or patient resignation (ksanti); (4) energy or exertion (virya); (5) concentration or meditation (dhyana); and (6) wisdom (prajna). Although there are usually said to be six paramitas, sometimes their number is expanded to ten (with the addition of expedients/means, vows/prayer, power, and knowledge/pristine awareness).


"consciousness" or "wisdom." In Tibetan, sherab, literally "perfect knowledge." This term is defined by its context; it can mean intuitive wisdom, understanding, intelligence, discrimination, or judgement. In the context of this sutra, prajna refers to the ability to perceive the two truths simultaneously: the conventional truth and the ultimate truth. The meaning of this statement is very elusive to the intellect, but is the very foundation of Tantric Buddhism and Gnostic philosophy, and indicates a state of consciousness that is very pure and illuminated.

"What the text means by "perfection of wisdom" [prajna paramita] is a direct, unmediated realization of emptiness that is also called "ultimate bodhichitta." This is not the direct realization of emptiness alone; rather it is this direct realization in union with bodhichitta - the aspiration to become a buddha in order to free all beings." —The 14th Dalai Lama

Samael Aun Weor referred to the teachings of this sutra many times. For example, he said,

"Undoubtedly, the experience of the Illuminating Void is only possible in the state of samadhi; yes, in the state of samadhi, or as it is also known, the state of "prajnaparamita” [perfection of wisdom]..

"I knew this through a transcendental type of intuition, because in the field of intuition, or within the world of intuitionality, there are different degrees of intuition. Unquestionably, the highest intuitive degree is that of the philosophical-religious or philosophical-mystical minds. It is the type of intuition that corresponds to the prajnaparamita.

"Such a faculty, therefore, allowed me to know that beyond the world of the Illuminating Void is the Great Reality.

"To that end, I want, in an emphatic manner, to affirm to you that this path of Gnosis leads to the Great Reality.

"The Tality or Great Reality, Sunyata, prajnaparamita is beyond the universe of relativity, that is to say, it is beyond the mechanical laws of relativity, beyond, far beyond the Illuminating Void...

"In other words, the Tality transcends these two opposites that I would call, “mechanics of relativity” and the “Illuminating Void”. Thus the Illuminating Void is not the last word; it is just the entrance-hall of the Tality, that is to say, of the Great Reality.

"What I am speaking to you is not merely theoretical. In past mahamanvantaras, I experienced the Tality, and as I know it, as I experiened it, I have to give a living testimony of it...

"The important thing for us is to go through a supreme annihilation, so that the consciousness (turned into bodhichitta and fully awakened), can take the great leap falling into the Illuminating Void (and one more step and we will reach the Tality).

"But, as I say, we must start by changing our way of thinking, to work properly on ourselves by disintegrating the undesirable psychic elements that we carry inside; thus we could achieve the awakening of the consciousness, and the development of the bodhichitta. If only we would first of all we changed our way of thinking!..." —Samael Aun Weor, The Need to Change Our Way of Thinking and Feeling

Editor's Note

There are hundreds of translations of this scripture. The one we reproduce here is quoted from a Tibetan version, with the editorial guidance of Geshe Thupten Jinpa, and included in "Essence of the Heart Sutra" from Wisdom Publications (2005).


Prajnaparamita, or The Heart of Wisdom Sutra

The Blessed Mother, the Heart of the Perfection of Wisdom

In Sanskrit: Bhagavati Prajna Paramita Hridaya

[This is the first segment.]


The Blessed One [Buddha Shakyamuni] was staying in Rajgriha at Vulture Peak along with a great community of monks and a great community of bodhisattvas, and at that time, the Blessed One entered the meditative absorption on the varieties of phenomena called the appearance of the profound. At that time as well, the noble Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva, the great being, clearly beheld the practice of the profound perfection of wisdom itself and saw that even the five aggregates are empty of intrinsic existence.

Thereupon, through the Buddha's inspiration, the venerable Shariputra spoke to the noble Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva, the great being, and said, "How should any noble son or noble daughter who wishes to engage in the practice of the profound perfection of wisdom train?"

When this had been said, the holy Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva, the great being, spoke to the venerable Shariputra and said, "Shariputra, any noble son or noble daughter who so wishes to engage in the practice of the profound perfection of wisdom should clearly see this way: they should see perfectly that even the five aggregates are empty of intrinsic existence. Form is emptiness, emptiness is form; emptiness is not other than form, form too is not other than emptiness. Likewise, feelings, perceptions, mental formations, and consciousness are all empty. Therefore, Shariputra, all phenomena are emptiness; they are without defining characteristics; they are not born, they do not cease; they are not defiled, they are not undefiled; they are not deficient, and they are not complete.

"Therefore, Shariputra, in emptiness there is no form, no feelings, no perceptions, no mental formations, and no consciousness. There is no eye, no ear, no nose, no tongue, no body, and no mind. There is no form, no sound, no smell, no taste, no texture, and no mental objects. There is no eye-element and so on up to no mind-element including up to no element of mental consciousness. There is no ignorance, there is no extinction of ignorance, and so on up to no aging and death and no extinction of aging and death. Likewise, there is no suffering, origin, cessation, or path; there is no wisdom, no attainment, and even no non-attainment.

"Therefore, Shariputra, since bodhisattvas have no attainments, they rely on this perfection of wisdom and abide in it. Having no obscuration in their minds, they have no fear, and by going utterly beyond error, they will reach the end of nirvana. All the buddhas too who abide in the three times attained the full awakening of unexcelled, perfect enlightenment by relying on this profound perfection of wisdom.

"Therefore, one should know that the mantra of the perfection of wisdom - the mantra of great knowledge, the unexcelled mantra, the mantra equal to the unequalled, the mantra that quells all suffering - is true because it is not deceptive. The mantra of the perfection of wisdom is proclaimed:

tadyatha gaté gaté paragaté parasamgaté bodhí svaha!

Shariputra, the bodhisattvas, the great beings, should train in the perfection of wisdom in this way."

Thereupon, the Blessed One arose from that meditative absorption and commended the holy Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva, the great being, saying this is excellent. "Excellent! Excellent! O noble child, it is just so; it should be just so. One must practice the profound perfection of wisdom just as you have revealed. For then even the tathagatas will rejoice.”

As the Blessed One uttered these words, the venerable Shariputra, the holy Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva, the great being, along with the entire assembly, including the worlds of gods, humans, asuras, and gandharvas, all rejoiced and hailed what the Blessed One had said.


Regarding the famous mantra (sacred words) that are provided in this scripture, here is a relevant quote for you to consider:

"In Sanskrit, tadyatha literally means "it is thus" and prepares the way for what follows; gaté gaté means "go, go"; paragaté means "go beyond"; parasamgaté means "go totally beyond"; and bodhí svaha can be read as "be rooted in the ground of enlightenment." Thus, the entire mantra itself can be translated as "Go, go, go beyond, go totally beyond, be rooted in the ground of enlightenment." We can interpret this mantra metaphorically to read, "Go to the other shore," which is to say, abandon this shore of samsara, unenlightened existence, which has been our home since beginningless time, and cross to the other shore of final nirvana and complete liberation." —The 14th Dalai Lama